Vermont Political Observer

Now that Crossover Day has come and gone, it’s now official: State lawmakers will consider giving themselves health care coverage but won’t consider the same for all the rest of us.

On the Senate side, S.39 has emerged from the Government Operations Committee. It would significantly increase lawmakers’ pay from its current pittance to an amount that’s not absolutely insulting. There would be other improvements, all overdue, but the big one is coverage under the state employees’ health insurance system.

I’ve got no problem with any of that. However…

On the House side, a bill to put us on a path to universal health care was quashed without even the briefest of consideration. This, despite the fact that it had 59 co-sponsors.

Fifty-nine. More than one-third of the House.

Even so, the House Health Care Committee stuck it to the wall and left it there to die. No hearings, no votes. The contrast cannot go by without comment.

Hey, I get it. Every session has a surfeit of bills to consider. Committee time is precious. Most bills suffer the same fate as H.156.

I do wonder how many of those DOA bills had fifty-nine co-sponsors, but whatever.

We’re closing in on a full decade since Gov. Peter Shumlin waved the white flag on single-payer health care — the issue that won him the governorship in the first place, mind you. That happened in 2014, shortly after Shumlin came within a whisker of losing to the worst major-party candidate in recent memory, Scott Milne. Since then?










And counting. With no attempt to revive single-payer or even pursue a more modest alternative such as universal primary care. As universal care advocate Dr. Deb Richter recently noted,

44% of all Vermonters with health insurance under the age of 65 are underinsured — a major illness would lead to financial bankruptcy. Many people in this position avoid care, leading to worsening health and even premature death.

Well hey, 44% of all Vermonters, there’s always next year. Maybe the prospect of a full decade of inaction will embarrass the Legislature into seriously pursuing the issue.

Maybe. But probably not.